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Santa Clara City Desk: July 17, 2013

Council Sends Distinctive Condominium Project Back to Drawing Board

A proposal for some modestly modernistic architecture on Saratoga Avenue drew some surprising criticism last month from Santa Clara’s Council, which sent the item back to to the drawing board. Last week, the developer, Santa Clara-based SiliconSage Builders, got the go-ahead from the city’s architectural review committee for the new design, which will be presented to the Council in August.

The parcel is currently home to an automotive smog-testing shop, and is less than a mile from the new Santa Clara Town Centre on El Camino, scheduled to open in 2014, and is at the intersection where Newhall Street becomes Scott Boulevard, an increasingly commercial strip. Saratoga Avenue is home to numerous apartment and condominium complexes, and small office buildings.

“This property is in a transitional area – directly across the street is an office building, and down the streets are several two-story apartments much larger than 13 units,” observed Council Member Pat Kolstad at the June 26 meeting.

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However, Kolstad was alone in his view that the project was a good fit for the location. Mayor Jamie Matthews didn’t care for the modernistic design. Council Member Pat Mahan didn’t mind the contemporary design, but objected to the height. And Council Member Jerry Marsalli voiced concern about the density. The bottom line was that the Council majority wanted a more “traditional” design, a lower roofline, and more setback from the neighboring houses.

At last week’s Architectural Review Committee meeting, SiliconSage presented its mission-style redesign of the13-unit condominium complex on the 16,518 sf parcel.

The project consists of 1,200 to 1,400 sf two-story units with under-building parking – three stories in all – surrounding an interior courtyard.

The project was designed to maximize the setback from – and impact to – the single-family homes on Newhall Street, explained SiliconSage land Use Consultant Erik Schoennauer at the June 26 Council meeting. The development will be accessed from Saratoga Avenue and, in addition to all the parking required by city code, will have electric car charging stations and dedicated bike storage.

Because of neighbors’ complaints about privacy, the new design goes a step further by eliminating back balconies – replacing them with enclosed sun rooms – and reduces the overall height to 34 feet; the two-story apartment buildings adjacent on Saratoga Avenue are almost 30 feet high.

The committee approved the re-design, with the proviso that SiliconSage drop the peak of the roof by a foot, enlarge the rear setback of the second and third floors of the development to 20 feet, and increase the rear fence height to seven feet.

SiliconSage has a deep connection and commitment to Santa Clara, said Schoennauer following the architectural review meeting. “The company is making significant investments and doing the kind of infill projects the city’s general plan calls for.” SiliconSage is working on proposals for several other infill projects in Santa Clara.

Businesses’ Musical Offices is Music to City Officials’ Ears

Tech business growth in Santa Clara has heated up dramatically in recent months, if two recent expansions by tech companies is any indicator.

Network monitoring company Gigamon – which went public in June – is doubling its office space with a lease to take over the Olcott Street offices of Palo Alto Networks; which in turn will significantly expand its Santa Clara footprint by taking over some of Yahoo’s former offices on Great America Parkway.

“Once again, Santa Clara continues to be the City of choice for companies that want to grow in Silicon Valley,” said Santa Clara Convention & Visitors Bureau President and CEO Steve Van Dorn, pointing to Santa Clara’s central Silicon Valley location, the city’s low combined utility rates, and the attraction of the new Levi’s Stadium. “Companies find Santa Clara to be the ideal city for expansion and growth.”

“I’m thrilled that Gigamon has selected Santa Clara and PAN has additional room to expand,” said Matthews. “Whenever a City can attract new business to a site, retain the former business and provide room for them grow, that’s enduring success.”

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